Do you want to improve your organic Instagram content? Looking for an Instagram content marketing guide to follow?
In this article, you’ll find out how to plan, create, and optimize Instagram content for your business.
#1: How to Establish a Content Theme for Your Instagram Profile
The first step to running a successful Instagram account is to plan your content. Because Instagram is a visual platform, start by defining the look and feel of your business profile.
When creating a theme for Instagram, you’ll need to give some thought to:
- Colors to use
- Filters to apply to your images
- Type of content to post (just a rough idea at this stage)
Take a look at Canva’s Instagram account. They post a lot of different types of content but they’re strict about the colors they use.
As you scroll through their feed, the colors change organically, from purple to wine red to any other color you might think of.
Other businesses like Lacoste take a different approach. Lacoste primarily uses their brand colors—white and green—and typically each line in their grid contains visually similar posts.
Another example of an attractive Instagram business profile comes from clothing retailer Madewell. As you scroll through their posts, a certain vibe emerges: chill, sunny, and relaxed. A lot of that effect is achieved by the use of warm colors and photos that feature a bright blue sky.
If you really want to impress your Instagram followers, you can turn your Instagram grid into a complex and interconnecting collection of images and videos, like Lancôme does on their Instagram account.
Your Instagram visual content style should reflect your brand. To help create the right style for your business, answer these questions:
- What colors do you want people to associate with your brand? Consider using these colors predominantly in your Instagram posts.
- What types of content do you want to post? Pictures and videos with people, close-ups of faces, your products, scenery? Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to one type of photography, but it does help to have a general idea of the types of content you want to post.
- What filters will you use? One way to develop a recognizable theme on Instagram is by using a specific filter on all of your content. This is one of the easiest ways to develop a signature Instagram style.
#2: How to Plan Your Instagram Marketing Content
Once you know what you want your Instagram profile to express visually, you’re ready to start planning your content. Before considering different types of content, think about what you want to achieve with your Instagram marketing. Do you want more sales? More engagement? More followers? Setting goals is important because it informs the content you publish on Instagram.
Also take into account the amount of time you have to devote to Instagram.
If you’re a small business, you might not have someone to manage your social media full-time. Likewise, you probably won’t have a lot of time to dedicate to Instagram (which is why all of this initial planning is so important). Be honest with yourself about how much time you can dedicate to Instagram so you know how many posts you can reasonably handle each day.
Additionally consider what resources you have for your Instagram marketing. How much can you invest in your Instagram content?
Plan Your Instagram Publishing Calendar
Now give some thought to the mix of content you’ll be posting every day (promotional images, videos, stories, photos, etc.). Keep things interesting by posting a variety of content, not just one type all of the time.
Whether you’re a small business or a big brand, using a publishing calendar to plan your content will help you reach your objectives. It will also save you time in the long run and generate better results.
Now let’s look at some different types of content you can create for Instagram.
Sharing stats and facts in your posts is great for engagement and shares. Here, HubSpot shares a graphic with a relevant takeaway from their research.
Posts with animals and pets, funny images, and the like are also effective for generating engagement from your audience.
National holidays and novelty holidays alike can provide content inspiration for Instagram. Create themed content for holidays and events, as in this post from Buffer celebrating Pride month.
Educational tips, advice, and other content can help build trust with your audience. This HubSpot post explains why hashtags are so important on Instagram.
Motivational and success quotes such as this one from Dove are popular across social media, but they’re particularly well-suited for Instagram. Plus, they’re easy and inexpensive to create.
Instagram is also a great place for you to highlight your products. In fact, brands and products are quite popular on this platform with 80% of Instagram accounts following at least one business.
You can show your product in action, as GoPro often does on their Instagram account.
Or simply highlight one of your products, like Asos does here.
Tools to Help Plan Instagram Content
One way to plan your Instagram content is to use a simple spreadsheet, or even better, a Google sheet so you can easily collaborate with others.
Another way to go is to use a project management and team collaboration tool like Trello (available in free and paid plans, starting at $12.50/month). Search for the phrase “trello social media calendar” and you’ll find a few ready-made templates for your purpose.
While you can’t schedule your Instagram posts with Trello, it’s a handy tool for the initial stages of planning: defining what types of content to post, deciding when to post them, recording your team’s post ideas, and so on.
#3: How to Create Your Instagram Marketing Content
If you’re a big brand, an agency might do the content creation for you. More likely, you have full-time employees who focus solely on social media, whether it’s strategizing, creating, posting, engaging, or measuring.
If you’re a small business, you don’t have all of these resources at your disposal. Because of this, small businesses usually take one of two approaches to creating content:
- They post new content when they have the time or inspiration.
- They prepare their content in advance and make sure they always post new content.
As a small business, it’s not easy to be prepared and have new content ready every day. If you mostly rely on your availability and time, chances are you won’t get amazing results from Instagram because:
- You’re not posting enough content.
- You’re not posting content designed to help you achieve your Instagram objectives.
- You’re not reaching enough people and engaging enough.
If you initially want to attract more followers, you might focus on posting engaging content such as inspirational and motivational quotes, cute pet photos, and similar types of content that people love on Instagram.
If you already have a decent Instagram audience and want to boost sales, you’ll need a different approach—promoting your products, services, and your business in general.
Remember: If you want to generate great results from Instagram and ensure you’re doing everything possible to reach your objectives, this is my advice: regularly spend time brainstorming new ideas, putting them into your social media calendar, and creating the content.
Here are some important best practices to keep in mind when creating Instagram content:
- Always keep your objectives in mind. Whenever you come up with a content idea, ask yourself what it will help you achieve.
- Use high-quality imagery, video, and sound. Whether you’re buying stock photography or video clips or creating them yourself (even if it’s with your smartphone), your content needs to look high-quality. If it doesn’t, discard it and try again.
- Make sure your content is the optimal size for the platform, particularly if you’re creating or editing it using a third-party tool. Most image tools offer different sizing options, including for different types of Instagram posts.
If you want to create your own videos, consider investing in a few different pieces of video equipment (whichever are relevant): a tripod for your (smartphone) camera, a lighting kit, and a microphone.
Tools to Help Create Instagram Content
There are some great free and paid resources online where you can get quality stock photos and video clips to use in your Instagram posts. Here are a few you may want to try:
- Free photos: Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay
- Paid photos and video clips: Shutterstock and Getty Images
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When it comes to creating social media imagery, Canva (free and paid plans, from $12.95/month) is one of the most popular tools. The free plan offers a ton of helpful features and gives you access to a plethora of templates.
The drag-and-drop editor is intuitive to use, and free and paid images are accessible directly in the editor. Canva is handy for creating inspirational and motivational images, adding watermarks to your posts, adding calls to action (CTAs) to images and other text, and making your posts look better with all kinds of filters and editing features.
If you opt for one of the paid plans, you can save templates and collaborate with other team members when creating content.
#4: How to Schedule Your Instagram Marketing Content
Once you’ve created your content, schedule your Instagram posts to ensure you’re posting new content regularly.
You’ll find many studies on the best times to post on social media, including Instagram. But the truth is, the optimal times for you to post depend on your audience. The best way to find what times work best on Instagram is to start posting and carefully monitor your results. Look for the days and times when you’re getting the best results.
Thankfully, Instagram now allows third-party apps to schedule content—images, videos, and GIFs. If you use several major social networks, I recommend a tool like SocialPilot (plans start at $30/month, with a 14-day free trial), which lets you manage all of your accounts from one place. For small businesses, it’s helpful and cost-effective because you won’t have to pay for multiple tools (and lose time going from one tool to the next and back again).
SocialPilot lets you schedule your social media posts and offers a few extra features that can come in handy for Instagrammers:
- Find free images from their built-in library to share on your Instagram account.
- Customize your Instagram posts with filters, effects, text, and other editing options.
- Watermark your images.
- Collaborate with team members to plan and execute your content strategy.
#5: How to Optimize Your Instagram Marketing Content
Once you have a good schedule and awesome content to post, how do you further improve your results on Instagram? Here are some ways to boost reach, improve engagement, and grow your following.
Add Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags are a hugely important part of Instagram. The right hashtags (and the right number of hashtags) can help you reach a wider audience and attract more followers.
If you’re a huge brand with lots of recognition, you might not need to use hashtags all of the time. But if you’re a small- or medium-sized business, make sure you pay a lot of attention to hashtags and use at least one on all of your posts. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on the opportunity to reach more people.
Before I share some best practices for using hashtags on Instagram, let’s look at the different types of Instagram hashtags.
Branded hashtags: These are hashtags you create that are unique to your brand. You can use them to build up your brand and encourage user-generated content. If you create a branded hashtag, make sure it’s succinct, easy to type, and easy to remember. Here’s how Adobe uses branded hashtags on their profile:
Industry hashtags: These are hashtags that are relevant to a particular industry such as #photographer. This type of hashtag is usually extremely popular and has tens of millions of posts.
Niche hashtags: If #photographer is an industry hashtag, a hashtag like #foodphotographer would be a niche hashtag.
Location hashtags: These hashtags can be very practical for businesses operating in certain locations. You can go for a wider audience by leveraging location hashtags like #london or #newyorkcity, or go more niche with hashtags for certain neighborhoods and communities. You might even try combinations of locations and niches, such as #northlondonfoodie.
Event hashtags: Whenever there’s a large-enough event happening, there’s usually a hashtag behind it, such as #fifawwc for the Women’s World Cup.
Holiday hashtags: Most holidays have their own hashtags—from national holidays like Christmas, to novelty holidays like #nationalcupcakeday.
Ideally, you should leverage as many of these different types of hashtags as possible. Also, constantly experiment with different hashtags to see how they affect your results.
Now that you know what types of hashtags you can use, here are some best practices for using hashtags on Instagram:
- Always use hashtags. While you can use up to 30 hashtags, that doesn’t mean it’s good practice (even if it means you might reach more people). Studies show conflicting data regarding hashtag use and engagement so experiment with different numbers of hashtags and see how it affects your results.
- Research hashtags before using them. Do a quick search of hashtags to see how many and what type of posts there are. Too many posts could mean your content will get lost in the sea of updates.
- Save relevant hashtags in a document for easy access. Then when you create a post, copy over the best hashtags for that content.
- Go beyond popular hashtags. It might be tempting to only use super-popular hashtags, but the truth is, there’s simply too much content so yours might get lost. Use a mix of different types of hashtags: popular hashtags, niche hashtags, location hashtags, and so on.
Tools to Help Find and Use Instagram Hashtags
All Hashtag is a tool for identifying, creating, and analyzing hashtags. To start using it for free, type in a hashtag/keyword and indicate whether you want to search for Top (only the most popular relevant hashtags), Random, or Live hashtags.
Your search results will include dozens (even hundreds, in some cases) of hashtags, including similar hashtags to consider. You can copy these groups of hashtags with one click to save them for later use (or add them directly to one of your updates).
Keyhole (from $29/month, with a free 7-day trial) is a hashtag, online monitoring, and analytics tool that works with multiple social platforms including Instagram. One feature lets you track a hashtag in real time.
In addition to showing the top posts using those hashtags, it will analyze usage over time for that hashtag, show the sentiment behind the updates, reveal the top influencers using that hashtag, and display other trending topics.
You can also use Keyhole to track the performance of your own Instagram account and hashtags.
As a bonus, you can monitor your competitors to see how their hashtag strategies are evolving and what you can learn from them.
Use the Optimal Caption Length for Your Content
The length of your Instagram caption will depend in part on the type of content you’re posting.
If you want to promote a link in your bio and drive traffic to it, it’s best to keep your caption short and simple so people can see your CTA without having to read several paragraphs.
If, on the other hand, you want to educate or tell a story, use a longer caption as TED Talks does in this post.
Some posts won’t require a CTA, such as a photo of a Labradoodle that someone brought to work that’s just for entertainment and engagement purposes. But generally, you need to add CTAs whenever possible or you won’t get people to take the action you want them to.
There are several places you can add a CTA: your caption, imagery, and bio. Whatever action you want people to take—visit a web page, buy something, leave a comment, and so on—make it clear in your caption and content, as GoPro does here.
View this post on Instagram
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When you’re a small business without the name-recognition of top brands, getting results from social media can prove difficult and Instagram is no different.
A lot of what we covered in this guide will help you create and share content that helps attract more Instagram followers and engagement, including:
- Using a consistent posting schedule
- Posting a variety of types of content every day
- Leveraging the right mix of hashtags
While Instagram can certainly be spammy (with its share of fake followers, fake accounts, and the like), there are a lot of genuine users who log in every day to see new content from their friends, influencers, and yes, even from brands. And while you might catch the attention of some of them with great content and the right hashtags, another way to keep growing your following and engagement is to engage with users.
Here are some best practices for Instagram engagement:
- Use CTAs in your posts and captions to encourage people to interact with your content and leave comments.
- Spend time every day liking posts, viewing stories and videos, and engaging with your followers, relevant influencers in your niche, and so on.
- Regularly look for new users who might be interested in your brand and interact with them.
What do you think? Will you create an Instagram content plan for your business? Do you have any content creation tips to offer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
More articles on Instagram marketing:
- Discover four ways to use Instagram Insights to improve your marketing.
- Learn how to create Instagram stories people love to watch.
- Find seven ways to use Instagram video for business.